Béjart or Béjard (both: bāzhärˈ) [key], French family of actors associated with Molière, who joined their amateur company, Les Enfants de Famille. Their professional debut in Paris (1643) was as the Illustre-Théâtre; this failed (1645) and the company returned to the provinces only to triumph on their return in 1658. The eldest of the family was Joseph Béjart, c.1616–1659. His sister Madeleine Béjart, 1618–72, a fine actress and virtually the manager of the company, was Molière's mistress. Their sister, Geneviève Béjart, 1624–75, and brother, Louis Béjart, 1630–78, were also actors in the company. Louis retired in 1670, and was the first of Molière's actors to receive a pension. Armande Grésinde Béjart, c.1640–1700, Madeleine's sister or daughter, married Molière in 1662 and, trained by him, played most of his heroines. The death of Molière (1673) caused a momentary collapse of the King's Troupe, as the company was called, but Molière's widow and the actor La Grange procured the absorption by their group of one of the two rival Parisian companies, the troupe of the Théâtre du Marais. At the same time they lost the Palais Royal, the theater they had had since 1660. From its new quarters the company was known as the Hôtel Guénégaud troupe. In 1680 the troupe was merged with its only rival, the company of the Hôtel de Bourgogne. The resultant company was called the Comédie Française.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Theater: Biographies